There’s nothing like cheap red wine to give a fellow courage.
That’s the idea behind Gaetano Donizetti’s popular comic opera “L’ Elisir d’Amore.” Composed at a time when traveling salesmen peddled love potions, the elixir of the title may be fake, but it works.
The first production in the 2012-13 MET: Live in HD season premieres Saturday at its new Durango location: Fort Lewis College. After long and skillful negotiations, Charles Leslie, director of the FLC Community Concert Hall, pulled out a little magic himself.
Opera broadcasts are ubiquitous in movie theaters across the country. But now Leslie invites you to the comfortable Vallecito Room in the Student Union – and there’s plenty of free parking.
The plot of “Elisir” hinges on the lovesick peasant Nemorino (tenor Matthew Polenzani). Because he’s fallen for Adina (soprano Anna Netrebko), a wealthy, out-of-reach landowner, Nemorino squanders all his money on a phony love potion,
Act I: Under a shade tree, the gorgeous, aristocratic Adina benevolently reads aloud to her poor peasants – on their lunch break.
She appears to be indifferent to Nemorino’s longing looks, especially when a blustery military man arrives.
Sergeant Belcore (baritone Mariusz Kwiecien) flirts with her and soon proposes. “I’ll think about it,” Adina casually responds. Poor Nemorino swoons, and the sergeant appears to have the upper hand.
Meanwhile, in the village, another con-man works his trade. Dr. Dulcamara (bass Ambrogio Maestri) sells a bit of everything including magic love potions. The not-too-bright Nemorino spends all his money on what turns out to be cheap red Bordeaux. Soon drunk, he behaves badly and Belcore urges a hasty wedding on Adina before he and his troops leave.
As Act II opens, nuptial arrangements are in full swing. To buy a second love potion, Nemorino signs up for military service and a cash bonus. Unbeknownst to him, his uncle died, apparently during intermission, leaving Nemorino with a fortune. Did I mention this was a male fantasy?
With Nemorino’s good news, Adina changes her mind about the strutting sergeant and buys up Nemorino’s military contract. When he sees a tear of recognition in her eyes, he sings the famous aria Una furtiva lagrima, “a furtive tear.”
Now social equals, the two will marry. And Sergeant Belcore? Jovial as always, he’s confident there are other women in the world waiting for him.
One more thing: After all that nonsense, Donizetti concludes with a touch of irony. As villagers buy out Dr. Dulcamara’s stock of fake elixir, he gets the last aria. A salesman’s fantasy?
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.